Today, Google pays homage to Auguste Rodin, a French sculptor who defied the conventional art of his time. He is best known for his contemplative sculpture called “The Thinker”.
Rodin would be 172 years old today. He was born to a working class family in France in 1840. He received his early training at Petit École, a school that taught decorative artists. He received a strong background in French 18th century art. After several attempts to gain entrance into the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts, Rodin settled into a career of making architectural embellishments and ornamental sculptures. This was definitely a set back as gaining acceptance into the École des Beaux-Arts wasn’t particularly difficult to do. It is thought that he was snubbed due to the fact that he didn’t fall into the Neoclassical style of sculpture.
The path that Rodin took was not an easy one. He served as an apprentice for many years to French sculptor Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse. He would follow Carrier-Belluese to Belgium after an economic downturn due to the Franco-Prussian war. From there he traveled to Brussels and then on to Italy. In Italy, he was inspired by Michelangelo. The Bronze Age, pictured below, is one example of his Michelangelo inspired work.
Rodin received a commission in 1880 from the French government to design a portal for a Museum of Decorative Arts. Unfortunately, the museum never came to fruition. However, this inspired a lifelong work in Rodin called The Gates of Hell. For 37 years Rodin worked on this monumental sculpture. He would add pieces and remove pieces striving for perfection. Inspired by Dante’s Inferno, Rodin designed pieces that showed both the agony and ecstasy of man. Many of his famous individual pieces like The Thinker, actually began as part of this portal which he took off and used for individual commissions. Sadly, The Gates of Hell was never cast into bronze during Rodin’s lifetime. The Rodin Museum in Philadelphia, PA has the first ever bronze cast made from the original Rodin cast.